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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 September; 14(9): 6317–6325.
PMCID: PMC359158

Introns are cis effectors of the nonsense-codon-mediated reduction in nuclear mRNA abundance.


The translation of human triosephosphate isomerase (TPI) mRNA normally terminates at codon 249 within exon 7, the final exon. Frameshift and nonsense mutations of the type that cause translation to terminate prematurely at or upstream of codon 189 within exon 6 reduce the level of nuclear TPI mRNA to 20 to 30% of normal by a mechanism that is not a function of the distance of the nonsense codon from either the translation initiation or termination codon. In contrast, frameshift and nonsense mutations of another type that cause translation to terminate prematurely at or downstream of codon 208, also within exon 6, have no effect on the level of nuclear TPI mRNA. In this work, quantitations of RNA that derived from TPI alleles in which nonsense codons had been generated between codons 189 and 208 revealed that the boundary between the two types of nonsense codons resides between codons 192 and 195. The analysis of TPI gene insertions and deletions indicated that the positional feature differentiating the two types of nonsense codons is the distance of the nonsense codon upstream of intron 6. For example, the movement of intron 6 to a position downstream of its normal location resulted in a concomitant downstream movement of the boundary between the two types of nonsense codons. The analysis of intron 6 mutations indicated that the intron 6 effect is stipulated by the 88 nucleotides residing between the 5' and 3' splice sites. Since the deletion of intron 6 resulted in only partial abrogation of the nonsense codon-mediated reduction in the level of TPI mRNA, other sequences within TPI pre-mRNA must function in the effect. One of these sequences may be intron 2, since the deletion of intron 2 also resulted in partial abrogation of the effect. In experiments that switched introns 2 and 6, the replacement of intron 6 with intron 2 was of no consequence to the effect of a nonsense codon within either exon 1 or exon 6. In contrast, the replacement of intron 2 with intron 6 was inconsequential to the effect of a nonsense codon in exon 6 but resulted in partial abrogation of a nonsense codon in exon 1.

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